The novel scheme is to help researchers monitor the behaviour of seals in the Nordic waters, track their energy levels, and count their numbers.
Akvaplan Niva, a research lab in Tromsø, North Norway, is behind the idea. The project will progess the previous technique of taking a ship out to sea and watching the seals. Now scientists can use latest technology to record the behaviour of seals while the animals are underwater and undisturbed in their natural habitat.
Scientists will implant a microchip that collects data about the seals' body motion and changes in velocity and direction. It is similar technology to that held on smartphones or with sports apps for tracking exercise and body movement in humans.
This chip is currently being piloted in the Arctic Circle, but will hopefully soon help scientists figure out how much energy the seals expend on a daily basis, and how much energy individual seals store in their fat. The researchers can also determine where the seals are finding food, said ScienceNordic.
The Tromsø team are also planning to fit small video cameras on the seals to record what the animals are eating.
The issue of what and how much fish seals in the region eat is of concern to the fishing industry. Experts claim the estimated 1.4 million seal population in the North Atlantic consumes an abundance of fish and this can have serious impact on fish stocks for human catch and consumption.
Martin Biuw, a researcher Akvaplan Niva, said: "We currently have fairly good information about the number of seals in the North Atlantic. But we don’t know enough about how much energy each seal needs and thus how much it eats.”
The Akvaplan Niva lab is the first of its kind and it features a seal farm where the scientists have been testing the technology.
“Building these test facilities turned out to be a much bigger job than we expected. But now we have a unique laboratory out in the ocean. We have already received lots of enquiries from seal researchers around the world who would like to use it," said Biuw to Science Nordic.